Celebrate APIDA Heritage Month at WWU Throughout May



May is Asian Pacific Islander Desi American Heritage Month, honoring and celebrating an immensely diverse community of more than 50 ethnic groups.   

Western’s planning committee is developing celebrations and learning opportunities that center APIDA identities, experiences, histories and cultures.  The committee is led by Amy Salinas Westmoreland, Western’s director of Multicultural Student Services, who recently answered a few questions about APIDA Heritage Month from Western Today. 

WT: What do you value about heritage months?  

I'm really excited to be able to work with amazing students and colleagues in coordinating APIDA Heritage Month. As someone that does not share the APIDA identity, I have been able to learn so much while supporting the organizing of the programs for this month. I value being able to continue to grow and learn about different cultures and ethnicities, and facilitating the planning of heritage months allows me the opportunity to learn so much.  

But while I love celebrating and honoring different cultures, races and ethnicities, heritage months can be complicated. On one hand, they provide a time and space for us to center BIPOC communities. This allows for beautiful celebrations and deeper understanding of identities, histories, and experiences through educational programming. On the other hand, my hope is that we get to a place in society where we center and celebrate the rich cultural value of BIPOC communities every single day, and don't require specific months to celebrate. As a society, we are not in that place yet, so it's important that we take the time to recognize and celebrate heritage months.  

WT: The name of APIDA Heritage Month references some extremely diverse communities: Asian, Pacific Islander and Desi Americans. How is that a factor in planning for events? 

This year, my goal was to bring together a planning committee composed of Western students, staff, and faculty to create a diverse calendar of events that allows us to engage with the term APIDA - Asian Pacific Islander Desi American. As we started planning the calendar for this year, we engaged in conversations about how the umbrella of APIDA is often limiting in its representation of such a large and diverse population of people. There is such tremendous diversity within the term APIDA, and it's important that people understand that APIDA encompasses billions of people throughout the world. The planning committee has made a concerted effort to try to be inclusive as we celebrate this month, centering our conversation on the vast variety of identities and cultures that fall under APIDA.  

WT: How will all these stories be woven together? 

To create an inclusive celebration, we are kicking off the month by engaging our faculty, staff, and students in a conversation, asking the question "What does APIDA mean to you?" A short film will include interviews with campus community members who identify as APIDA and will center their thoughts and experiences. We will screen this short video during our opening event as well as during our subsequent events throughout the month.  

WT: What topics do you expect will be included in the events this year? 

As we celebrate APIDA Heritage Month this year, I think it's important that we acknowledge the struggles faced by the APIDA community, specifically the anti-Asian hate and violence that is occurring nationally, combatting the model minority myth, and the silencing and overlooking of the APIDA community. Many of our programs throughout the month will address these topics, and we will also have celebratory events such as an APIDA mixer to kick off the month. We also want to encourage people to attend and support our APIDA student clubs who will be holding heritage dinners in April and May. You can learn more about these events by visiting WIN

WT: Do you have any favorite types of events for heritage months?  

Some of my favorite events are the Lunch & Learns we've been hosting in the Multicultural Center. Every Wednesday at noon, our Lunch & Learns provide a convenient way for the campus community to come together and engage with various topics while sharing a meal. During our heritage month celebrations, we've used these Lunch & Learn programs to center the identity being celebrated for that heritage month. We've also collaborated with and hosted some amazing campus partners and speakers from outside of Western. We'll do the same for APIDA heritage month, focusing on the intersections of identity and centering discussions within the APIDA community.  

WT: How can people learn more about APIDA Heritage Month events?  

I want to offer a heartfelt thank you to the APIDA Heritage Month planning committee for the love, care, and support they have shown in coordinating this month of events. You can see a full list of our planning committee members and sponsors on our website. As with everything, the APIDA Heritage Month planning committee is learning and growing, and I'm excited to see how we continue to highlight and celebrate this month in the future. If you're interested in learning more about APIDA Heritage Month events, please visit our website. You can also find more information about events and programs offered from the Access, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Unit on our ADEI website.